Saturday, 11 April 2015

Ofsted – Review and Reform

Over the last few months I’ve written a couple of blog posts Are Ofsted Off The Mark? and Ofsted - The Response highlighting the inconsistencies of Ofsted reports and calling for a review of the system. Those of you who follow me on Twitter may have joined in the #OfstedNoConfidence campaign, see hashtag/ofstednoconfidence
The reasons that I would like to see a total overhaul of Ofsted stem both from personal experience and the accounts that I read and hear from others concerning inconsistent and unfair reports.

For a number of years I worked in schools as support for the visually impaired. One school in particular that I went to had been given a glowing report, but turned out to be the worst school I’ve ever set foot in. Behaviour was appalling, morale was low (teachers and students) and lessons were not taught with any energy or enthusiasm.

A few years ago my son’s school was put into special measures by Ofsted, despite it being a high achieving establishment with a sense of pride and belonging. When I challenged Ofsted they admitted they had marked the school down on teaching and behaviour purely for it to score low enough to be put into these measures. Their main gripe was financial management, but as the school had no bursar or finance department, perhaps all that needed to happen was to agree to instigate one or the other. For some reason their agenda included getting rid of the (great, to my mind) head, by promising him that if he resigned other posts would be safe. As soon as he was clear of the school all the governors were dismissed and certain teaching staff ‘disappeared’ overnight. So much for making that deal good.

More recently there have been some other appalling, and quite sad, stories in the news about popular schools that have been condemned by Ofsted to the incredulity of staff, parents and pupils alike. Think Durham Free School, Bisham Primary School and The Ilfracombe Academy, to name a few.

Appeals and complaints directed at Ofsted themselves cut no mustard and The Department of Education seem to think that it’s nothing to do with them. So it’s down to us – the parents, teachers and students – to make enough noise to force an independent review of the situation.

It would appear that Ofsted don’t always work to the agenda that you would expect. Are some schools merely condemned just so they can be controlled by some of the dubious trusts that exist? To quote the Green Party, “Ofsted has become a political tool, as schools put into special measures can be fast-tracked to Academy status”. This is just one point of view, but I personally believe Ofsted have a different motive than is first apparent.

What reforms do there need to be? Well, here are a few ideas for starters.
- Change the existing forms designed for parents to complete, from tick boxes to forms that allow free and full comment.
- Include parents in the inspections themselves, holding a discussion session that can be attended by all those who would like to have their say.
- Ensure that all Ofsted teams are made up of a fair mix of inspectors from different backgrounds, beliefs, ages etc
- Ensure that all relevant data and comments are considered during the inspection, to include press (good and bad), parental complaints, evidence of community involvement, details of particularly difficulties that the school has had to overcome and so on.
- If a school genuinely falls down on a particular category, assistance should be provided to overcome that particular issue, rather than dismiss the head/close the school/put the school in special measures when there is often a solution available.

If there are ideas that you would like to see added to this list, please leave a comment on this blog, or tweet me @blogsbyjoy

Thank you for your support, please remember to use #OfstedNoConfidence on Twitter!

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